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As the 2009 Holiday Season wraps up we are reminded of many wonderful things: family, friendship, community, giving, faith, and more. But we are also reminded of the role that alcohol plays in our society. Even if you don’t drink, could you imagine Christmas and New Years without the mention of alcohol? There’s the football games with all of the beer commercials. There are the alcohol industry sponsored television ads exhorting us to enjoy the holidays and to drink responsibly. There are numerous events and get togethers that would seem not quite “right” if there wasn’t a little (or a lot of) alcohol included in the festivities. Of course, locally, there is the Santa Crawl that includes people dressed like Santa going from bar to bar in downtown Reno spreading as well as imbibing Christmas Cheer. In fact, the picture of thousands of Santas “crawling” drunk around Reno in a snowstorm even strikes many as kind of humorous. I have to admit that it strikes me as a little funny.

So what’s so funny about a drunk Santa? What’s so funny about a drunk person in any situation? Is it that we enjoy someone else acting a fool? Is it that we enjoy seeing someone falling down, getting up and then falling down again? Is it we think that if a person is foolish enough to be in that condition they deserve to be the object of laughter and scorn? Or maybe we just chalk it up to a good time and wish we could be doing what that person is doing.

Not to spoil anyone’s good mood at the outset of the good year, but whether you find the intoxicated person funny or not, there’s a whole lot to take the edge off of the laughter that drunk person may provide.

First, alcohol is a toxic (i.e. poisonous) substance and while most people can drink safely and without harming themselves, intoxication is technically an overdose from consuming too much alcohol. That means that what was a safe activity in moderation could turn into alcohol poisoning that could range anywhere from throwing up to even death by lethal overdose.

Second, most people can drink safely and without incident but one of 10 drinkers become addicted to alcohol. There are many factors that contribute to this, including genetic, peer group, and more. Estimates are that there are somewhere between 18 and 22 million alcohol dependent people in America.

Third, even at small levels of alcohol, most people are impaired. Impairment begins with the higher brain functions such as reasoning, judgment, and memory. Then impairments continues to fine motor skills such as writing with a pen or typing. Next, impairment continues to gross motor skills such as walking. Finally, if a person drinks enough, basic functions such as breathing and heart beat can be suppressed by the alcohol, resulting in serious medical complications and even death. So many issues such as drunk driving, many family problems, fights, and more are related to over drinking.

Drunk people often say and do funny, even hilarious things. But, for me, it’s not all that entertaining because of the wreckage that intoxication can cause in all of our lives. I wish everyone a happy, prosperous, and sober New Year!